Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, the list goes on and on of the different digital media channels out there, and these are just the social ones.


As media continues to grow, it can be hard to keep up. A busy brand doesn’t have the time for that. Understandable.


Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone to help you create a media strategy and then another person to implement that strategy for the best price?


That’s exactly what a media planner and media buyer does. Here, we will walk through the basics.



What Is Media Planning?


Media planners are the people figuring out which media platform to use for a new campaign. To make the most effective decision, they will complete research to figure out how to achieve what the client wants.


They will then set a budget, outline objectives and goals for the campaign, and choose more than one platform if necessary. A media planner will have certain skill sets to get the job done, such as:


Attention to detail

Negotiation skills

Commercial awareness

Understanding of numeracy and data analysis


Organizational skills

Interpersonal and communication skills.


The process of media planning includes these four steps:


Internal Market Research:


Conducting internal market research involves learning everything possible about the client. A media planner will soon understand the client’s brand identity to figure out what their unique selling point is.


External Market Research:


External market research is about looking at what the competitors in the same industry are doing. A media planner will explore how a brand is currently creating ads and how it compares to the competition.


They’ll also take a look at the intended audience and what attracts them. This will help them decide on what media outlets to use.


Setting Objectives and Goals:


A campaign is created with the combination of what the client wants and what the media planner believes they should achieve. A media planner can make every dollar of your marketing budget work in your favor.


By working with media buyers, a media planner can create objectives and goals that they can reach for a brand.


Creating a Budget:


Determining the message of a brand is just one step of the media planning process. A planner will then allocate funds to ensure the message is seen on the respective platforms.


While creating a budget, the media planner will allocate a percentage to each channel. For example, a brand may spend 50% of the budget on social media and leave the rest for mobile ads, billboards, radio, etc.


What Is Media Buying?


Media buyers will receive the strategy created by the media planners. Once they get that strategy, they will work on the most effective media channels and look for cost-effective options.


A good media buyer will have a complete understanding of the current marketplace. They are also responsible for creating relationships with vendors.


Media buyers and planners may be integrated under the same roof, but media buyers sometimes come from a separate agency. To be a great media buyer, these skills are necessary:


Communication and negotiation skills


Understanding of media analytics software

Organization skills

Ability to multitask

Attention to detail

Ability to understand a lot of information at once

Identification of target audiences

The specifics of the things that media buyers do are:


Creating Contacts:


Media buying is a lot about who you know. A media buyer can create the best return on investment for a brand because they have access to the best deals through their relationships.


Knowing About Media Channels:


Knowing the right people is important as a media buyer, but understanding media channels is also a huge part of the job. There are different target audiences that media channels are best for.


A media buyer will have the best knowledge of media channels to find the perfect space for a brand. They will also have the negotiation skills to ensure a brand gets the best deal possible.


Ad space will have a price based on the traffic and exposure of the space. It’s no wonder why Super Bowl commercial spots are pricey.


If the media planner allocated the budget correctly, the price tag will be worth the return. A media buyer must use their negotiation skills to buy a specific ad space below or at the budgeted amount.


Tweaking Campaigns:


The media buyer is responsible for the strategy after the media planner sends it off. The media buyer will then keep a close eye on the channels being used to make sure the campaign is effective throughout its lifetime.


A media buyer is flexible during this process as they gather data about the performance of the campaign. If the project gets off course, a media buyer can use specific tools like programmatic advertising to keep the campaign aligned.


After the campaign is finished, a media plan will be created. This plan is the collective results from the final campaign evaluation.


Media Planning and Buying Terminology:


When working on an advertising campaign, you’ll come across many different terms that you may be unfamiliar with. The terms that correlate to media planning and buyer are:



Inventory is another word for ad placements that can describe the amount of available ad space. This could be an amount based on what a publisher can sell or what the media buyer actually purchases.


You’ll hear this term in traditional and digital advertising.


Media Mix

Media mix refers to all of the media channels a brand will use to achieve its campaign goals. For example, your media mix could be online videos, radio, social media, and SEM.


Whatever you use for a campaign to reach your marketing goals is considered your media mix.



A media planner and buyer will schedule certain ads at a time and on a specific day for various media channels. Scheduling will depend on the target audience.



Targeting is one of the more common terms you’ll hear in marketing. A media planner will identify the ideal audience that should hear the campaign message through internal and external market research.


Target Audience/Market

This is another common term you can’t go without hearing in the marketing world. Once targeting is complete, the audience that has been chosen is the target audience/market. These groups can be specific or broad.


Manual Bidding

Manual bidding is not the same as automation or programmatic buying. In fact, it is the opposite.


Manual bidding involves changing the bid on ads based on engagement, keyword performance, cost, etc.


Automatic Bidding/Programmatic Media Buying

Automatic bidding, otherwise known as ad programmatic media buying, is an automated process of buying and selling ad space. If done in real-time, it is known as real-time bidding (RTB).


It replaces a manual negotiation as it is based on algorithms in digital technology. We’ll go more into detail about this term later in the article.


Real-Time Bidding (RTB)

Real-time bidding is when ad impressions are sold by media vendors through an ad exchange platform. Every impression is sold when it becomes available in real-time, hence the name.


As the market conditions change, advertisers can adjust their bids.


Guaranteed Inventory/Direct Buys

A media planner or buyer can secure bulk ad placements at a fixed CPM (cost per thousand impressions). This method guarantees that certain people will see the ad from their campaign.


The guarantee comes at a higher cost, but since there is no risk, many brands find it worth it.


Non-Guaranteed Inventory

Non-guaranteed inventory is sometimes interchangeable with real-time bidding. It works similar to an auction as advertisers bid against each other to secure the best ad placement possible.


It is called a non-guaranteed inventory because the ad placement is not guaranteed. Guaranteed inventory will have top priority for the best ad placements over this method.


For those with smaller budgets, this method may work best. However, it involves a lot of monitoring of the ad performance in real-time.


Cost Per Thousand (CPM)

CPM refers to the cost of an ad per 1,000 people that see it. The price will be higher if more people are going to see it and vice versa.


Request for Proposal (RFP)

An RFP is a document that a media buyer or other member of an agency will submit during the bidding process. The intent is to express interest in ad placement by reaching out to a media vendor.


The Media Planning and Buying Process in Simple Terms

Simply put, the media buying and planning process takes just five steps to complete. Those steps being:


Identifying a target audience through market research

Understanding the interest of the audience

Finding the audience at their most receptive times

Delivering content that drives the audience to take action

Testing ad placements over and over to see what is and is not working

The five-step process can help a brand connect with its audience as they are going through the buyer journey. The four stages of a buyer’s journey are attract, convert, close, and delight.


During the attract stage, a brand can reach the audience through any of the following media buying tactics:




Social media

Digital display






At the convert stage, brands will target the audience using social media, video, content, retargeting, and landing pages. They are then led to the close stage where lead nurture campaigns, email optimization, and CRM database management can be used.


Last, we have the delight stage. This is where a customer really falls in love with a brand after it has worked so hard with media planning and buying. This stage typically involves client communications and social media engagement.


How Media Buys Are Negotiated

To get a brand the best deal, a media buyer must know how to properly negotiate a media buy. After receiving a strategy from the media planner, a media buyer will execute the plan in the following ways:



During this process, the research never ends. The more information that is known, the better. Like media planners, media buyers must complete research to know the answers to these questions:


What is the cost of leads in the industry?

What is the standard cost of ad placement on various channels?

What types of ads and sizes perform best on those channels?

The answer to those three simple questions can help a media buyer understand how to create a successful campaign.



During each negotiation, a media buyer will have detailed information on the budget. For premium spots, brands may be willing to up the ante.


Before getting to the negotiation process, it is essential to know the overall budget. A media buyer will figure out how to make the most of that budget while understanding the wishes of the brand.


As a general rule of thumb in media buying, a professional will make their first bid lower than their target price. This opens the floor up for negotiation and may lead to leftover money in the budget.


Backup Plans

A good media buyer will always have a backup plan and multiple relationships with vendors that they can reach out to. Even if the brand has its sights set on a specific TV network or publisher, the spots may be filled or out of the budget.


When this happens, a media buyer should already have additional options to come up with a fast solution to the problem. A brand needs to know when they should back away and try a different option.


Lead Generation

This is an essential step in the media buying negotiation process. A buyer should always consider what they want their lead filters to be before the negotiation ends. You can’t always adjust filters after.


Value Add-Ons

A media buyer with a good relationship with a vendor is more likely to get value add-ons free of charge. This provides a brand with more exposure than what their budget originally aimed for.


The Contract

Anything that was negotiated with the media buyer and the vendor will be stated in a written contract. Without this, a vendor may not provide what was negotiated.


Negotiation Types

The two main types of negotiations used in media buying are zero-sum and integrative.


Zero-sum negotiations happen when one or both of the parties cannot compromise on an agreement. This is not a great negotiation style as it can ruin the ongoing relationship with a media buyer and vendor.


Through integrative negotiations, both parties agree so that each side gets a good deal. Because both parties are happy, this is the most effective media buying negotiation type.


Media Buying Tactics

As mentioned above, many different media buying tactics can place an ad in front of the ideal audience. A media planner will decide which one to use based on what the research suggests about the audience.


It is not enough to target an audience one time. Even after you convert them into customers, it is essential to continue advertising to them.


When you connect to your target market over and over again, you’ll have a complete inbound marketing strategy that relies on media planning and buying.